IRS Warns Taxpayers about Phone Scam Alert

August 14, 2014

pic-irs-tax-smOn Aug. 13, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a warning to the public to safeguard against increasing scams targeting taxpayers across the nation from individuals claiming to represent the IRS and demanding payment.

To date, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) received 90,000 complaints through its telephone hotline and an estimated $5 million was stolen from approximately 1,100 identified victims. Subsequently, the IRS and TIGTA are warning taxpayers to be on the alert.

“There are clear warning signs about these scams, which continue at high levels throughout the nation,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Taxpayers should remember their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue, but through official correspondence sent through the mail.”

According to the IRS, these scammers claiming to be from the IRS tell potential victims that they owe money which must be paid immediately or that they are entitled to big refunds. Sometimes when unsuccessful on the first call, the scammers call back and try a different strategy. It is imperative for taxpayers to know that the IRS never asks for credit card, debit or prepaid card information over the phone; never insists that taxpayers use a specific method to pay tax obligations; and never requests immediate payment over the phone nor take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation. The IRS also usually provides taxpayers with prior notification of IRS enforcement action involving IRS tax liens or levies. Therefore, be cautious of callers claiming to represent the IRS, and never give anyone your credit card, personal or financial information over the phone.

Other characteristics of these scams include:
• Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
• Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.
• Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
• Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
• Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
• After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here is what you should do:
• If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040.The IRS employees can help you with a payment issue, if there really is such an issue.
• If you know you do not owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you have never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484.
• If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

The IRS encourages taxpayers to be vigilant against phone and email scams that use the IRS as a lure. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the e-mail to phishing@irs.gov.

For more information or to report a scam, go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box.

More information on how to report phishing scams involving the IRS is available on the genuine IRS website, www.IRS.gov.

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